The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) is the largest association of Catholic physicians and healthcare professionals in the United States. Our mission is the formation and support of current and future physicians to live and promote the principles of the Catholic Faith in the science and practice of medicine. As an organization, CMA opposes mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment without conscience or religious exemptions.
Throughout the COVID–19 pandemic our organization has consistently provided reliable, up to date medical information regarding mitigation efforts and therapeutics, as well as information regarding the development and subsequent FDA emergency use authorization of three COVID-19 vaccines. In a recent survey of our members we identified a variety of reasons for choosing to receive the vaccine including concern for becoming ill with COVID-19 and preventing transmission to others in the interest of the public health and the common good. We also found that members expressed serious concerns regarding preliminary safety and efficacy data particularly with regard to the newer mRNA technology. In either case, ALL members voiced moral / ethical objection to the use of aborted fetal cell lines in development, testing and/or production of all three currently available vaccines.
An individual Catholic’s decision to be vaccinated should be informed by the clear and authoritative moral teaching of the Church on vaccinations. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith states:
“when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available…it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process…The moral duty to avoid such passive material cooperation is not obligatory… At the same time, practical reason makes evident that vaccination is not, as a rule a moral obligation and that, therefore, it must be voluntary… Those who, however, for reasons of conscience, refuse vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses, must do their utmost to avoid, by other means and appropriate behavior, becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent. In particular, they must avoid any risk to the health of those…who are most vulnerable.”(emphasis added)
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In addition, the USCCB’s Ethical and Religious Directives for Health Care Services address the issue of therapeutic proportionality, which is the assessment an individual makes concerning the medical risk / benefit of a particular intervention, “no person should be obliged to submit to a health care procedure that the person has judged, with a free and informed conscience, not to provide a reasonable hope of benefit without imposing excessive risks.” #32
Healthcare organizations have an interest and a right to set policies that assure their patients are served in the safest environment possible. Historically, a vaccinated workforce has been an effective means of fostering that safety. While we recognize the importance of this consideration medically and ethically, the Church’s teaching is clear, that “as a rule” vaccination “must be voluntary” and based on an individual’s personal assessment in good conscience of the medical risks / benefits and morality of a particular vaccine. This is imperative.
As calls increase for universal vaccination as a condition of employment, a lack of accommodation will result in an individual’s inability to work in their chosen vocation, lead to further shortages of essential healthcare workers, while exacerbating existing hesitancy and distrust regarding the COVID-19 vaccines.
The exemption process should be clear and consistent while not placing an undue burden on those requesting an exemption, while protecting the health of all involved. As has been true throughout this pandemic, procedures followed to minimize risk of contracting or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 should be clearly delineated and those in particular who choose not to be vaccinated must agree to adhere to these provisions.
As an association of medical professionals, in consultation with physicians with expertise in the areas of infectious disease, epidemiology and public health, we believe we can respect the rights of individuals to make informed, conscientious decisions regarding mitigation, treatment and vaccination while safeguarding the interest of those we serve as we all continue the effort to end this pandemic. We will continue to provide accurate, current medical information in service to our members, our patients and our communities and are prepared to work with all concerned in the development of a process of exemption that protects the rights and health of everyone.